John Foreman on Duty Faith (Complete)

16 The Universal Invitations Of The Duty Faith System

One radical and very fruitful evil in the spirit of duty faith is, that it turns all the particular invitations of the gospel into general ones, saying, ‘they belong to all alike, and not to any particular characters,’ as are named in the invitations. The invitations of the gospel are a very rich and precious part of the word of God, and in them are contained four jewel ingredients of precious truth for special purposes, and which are, first, the nature of a promise; second, the welcome character described; third, the adapted blessing named; and fourth, the welcome expressed, come, &c. And the invitations of the gospel are in every point and property as sure and infallibly amen in Christ Jesus, as the more simple promises are; for the truth of the Lord, of which the invitations are a most gracious part, ‘endureth for ever.’ Divine truth never did fail, nor in part of it can it fail, in the use and end that God himself intends thereby; and if any part fail in the way that man takes it up and applies it, that is a clear and undeniable proof at once, of its being taken up wrong, and in a way and for an end the Holy Spirit of truth never intended. And nothing is more self-evident than that universal invitations have failed, do fall, and must fail; many of the invited being in a state in which it is impossible for them to come, and are without any warrant from the Lord that they ever will be in a possible state to come, and if the invited to the eternal salvation of God never come, does not the invitation fall? Because it cannot be said in this case as in a mere natural one, ‘That I sent for them to come if they please, or stay away if they please;’ for the Lord knows that without his quickening and regenerating power and grace, no soul under the heavens can possibly come into the personal state, character, and blessings of Christianity and endless life. Nor are the invitations vindictive, as seeking a further, occasion of condemnation against them who are already under the death sentence of the law, and cannot possibly of themselves stir from thence; but they are gracious only, benefiting many and injuring none. The invited of God have always come, do come, and will come; and so the invitations have always stood good and effectual to the end of God’s purpose and grace in them. For as no part of God’s truth is or can be without an effectual end and design, the evident design of the gospel invitations is, the conducting of those very characters described in the invitations, to the blessings, and hope of the blessings named in them, as most happily adapted to their described condition.

Gospel doctrines, as so many truths of standing matters of fact, are to be preached to all men of all nations, for the special purpose In the hand of the Holy Ghost, of convincing men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, John 16: 8-11, according to the Saviour’s redemption of sinners out of all nations of the whole world; and the invitations are for the gracious welcome and gathering together into the comforts and blessings of Christ unto salvation, all those who are convinced and reduced in soul state, experimentally to the character described in the invitations; and this is the effectual order of every part of the infallible word of God. But duty faith men do not consider that sinners are preached to, unless universal invitations are held out to them, and which is altogether like saying that the whole of God’s infallible truth is not preached, unless something fallible, useless, and irreconcilably opposed to it, be served up with it! I have myself been asked, ‘Do you preach to sinners, sir?’ meaning, do you invite all? And to which my answer has been, ‘Yes, I preach to all sorts of sinners, and never had the honour to preach to any one else;’ while I do not consider, that inviting the dead in sins to the living feast of saints, to be preaching the truth at all. But on universal invitations we may further observe:-

John Foreman (1792-1872) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Hill Street Chapel, Marylebone, serving this position for close to forty years. John Hazelton wrote of him:

“John Foreman (1792-1872) was for upwards of 40 years pastor of the Church at Hill Street Chapel, Marylebone—a tall, stalwart, rugged man, with an iron constitution and of tremendous energy. When an agricultural labourer in the county of Suffolk he was called by grace; his first pastorate was at Cambridge, whence in 1827 he came to London. Although not a learned man, in the usual sense of that expression, he possessed varied general information, which he obtained by considerable reading, by intercourse with men, and by long and close observation. As a preacher he was distinguished by great plainness of speech and vigour of address; his sermons were often very instructive and impressive, and many of his thoughts grand and lofty. There was, however, considerable inequality in their value. His voice was strong and clear and, when he was warm in his subject, was exerted with great animation and rapidity of utterance. He was emphatic in declaring salvation to be entirely by grace and not in any sense or degree by works. Hence he had a great antipathy to what is termed the duty-faith scheme, which in his view, as it makes salvation depend on the exercise of faith as a moral duty, entirely enervates and destroys the character of the Gospel dispensation; changing a system of free favour and special distinguishing grace into one of condemnation and legal bondage. At the same time he was careful to maintain the necessity of good works, as the fruit of a gracious change of heart. His "Remarks on Duty-faith," with a preface by James Wells, is a valuable production worthy of a reprint. It gives a fairly complete idea of his views of truth, and affords a sample of his style in writing and preaching. As an able minister of the New Testament, he distinguished carefully between the several covenants therein set forth, and faithfully described the various characters therein indicated. Careful and prayerful attention to the nature of these covenants, as set forth in various parts of the Old Testament especially, will clear away clouds of difficulties which often trouble young believers. He was tender and sympathetic in his addresses to the weak and tried, and careful and considerate to the lambs and nurslings of the flock. He was a remarkable proof of what the Divine Spirit can effect by the instrumentality of a plain, unlettered man, so far as the learning of the schools is concerned. Possessed of the smallest possible advantages of early education he had to make his way by dint of perseverance and self-culture. Part of a report published by bis Sunday School during his pastorate has present-day lessons.
"At the commencement of our school it was supposed by some of our friends that it was impossible to carry on the Sabbath-school on free grace principles. The experiment, however, was tried, and our prayers have been answered —we have not to pronounce it a failure. Free-will and duty-faith have never formed a part of the creed of any of the teachers to our knowledge. We have always contended that life must precede action, and, consequently, have never been able to invite the dead to perform acts that belong alone to the living. The first chapter that was read in the school, in the hearing of the children, was John 3, in which is set forth the necessity of the new birth, and that alone by the invincible and omnipotent power of the Holy Ghost. Here we took our stand and from this point we have never swerved. The grand and glorious doctrines of free and distinguishing grace, as preached by our pastor, have ever been maintained as the truth within the walls of our school; and, although warm advocates for the use of means, we have never believed, much less taught, that there is any power or efficacy in them, but that they are only useful as made so by the Holy Ghost. The providing of suitable class books has been a matter of no small concern. A catechism was chosen, and others added after, besides reading and spelling books; but as years rolled on, one after another was given up, until we are left with the Bible only. This is our one class book for all who can put their words together.”